Updated: Oct 4, 2017
It's essential to keep things simple in film photography. From your camera to your ideas.
Hello, Julie! It's a pleasure to have you here. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself and how you got yourself into film photography?
Julie: I'm 40-ish years old, I started taking photography seriously approximately 5 years ago while looking for something to do after having retired from athletics. I raced as a professional cyclist for a few years, and before that as an amateur since my teens. Cycling, specifically mountain biking, had been my life 24/7/365 and when I had to stop riding for good due to injuries, I had a big hole to fill, not only in time but in my heart and mind as well.
I'd always been loosely interested in photography, I had some classes in high school including darkroom work, but I never had the space in my life for it. My work is primarily focused on landscapes, particularly Virginia landscapes. I'm looking to capture what it feels like to be fully present in these landscapes, to capture the mood of a place. Sometimes it's beauty, sometimes it's a dark and heavy sense of unease.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Julie: Film wise, I'm primarily a black and white shooter due to my preference for printing in the darkroom. My favorite roll film is Ilford Delta 100, either developed in Rodinal or Perceptol. It's sharp, clean and classic. My favorite sheet film for large format is Kodak Tri-X Pan 320 developed in Rodinal. If that stuff came in a roll it would be my favorite without a doubt, it's so gorgeous. I've read it's similar to what Tri-X used to be like back in the day, and I believe them, because I don't think it looks like Tri-X roll film at all, which I personally don't like. For color, I'm hooked on Cinestill, it's just so rich.
For cameras, I use an Olympus OM2n, a Leica M3, a Canon P, a Hasselblad 503 CW, an Ebony RS45, a Polaroid SX-70, and a Sony A7. I don't use them all at the same time though! I typically only carry 2 at a time. I love cameras, each camera allows me to "see" differently so I enjoying switching things up from time to time.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Julie: What does film have that digital doesn't...well, this is one of those questions that is probably different for each person. For me, I came at it backwards, I didn't fall in love with film for film's sake, I fell in love with Silver Gelatin prints. So in order to make Silver Gelatin prints I had to shoot film. It's handmade unique darkroom prints that just have no equal when it comes to photographic beauty (in my eye). It may be cliche by now, but I also appreciate the slowing down aspect of film shooting, you definitely have to be a little more careful with your composition and exposure since shots aren't unlimited like with digital, especially if you're shooting large format or discontinued film. Film is also superior in my opinion for long exposures, digital has long exposure sensor noise and battery draining issues.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Julie: I always print my own work, in my darkroom if it's B&W or in my studio if it's color. I admit I'm a control freak, I prefer to have total control of the process (shoot, develop, scan if needed, print) in order for it to feel like it's my art. Darkroom printing (and experimenting) is time consuming and often frustrating, but invigorating. In a print is where a photograph comes alive.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Julie: I'm motivated to continue to use film for several reasons, number one would be the look. Film just looks different to me, there's a softness, there's a realness to the images. Also, I enjoy shooting double exposures, which you can't do with digital. Digital double exposures always look like digital double exposures, there isn't an algorithm yet that can process the light the same way. There's the cameras as well, I love vintage cameras and more importantly, vintage glass. My camera is not a tool, it's my partner. I feel I see differently when I switch around what camera I'm shooting with, which is an important part of my process.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Julie: I definitely have a few photographers that have guided me in one way or another. The first would have to be Sally Mann. It's hard to describe, but her landscape photographs just resonate with me deeply. A few others are Keith Carter, Jack Spencer, Michael Kenna, and Masao Yamamoto. To me, what they all have in common is beauty in simplicity. I'm also inspired by the work of painters such as J. M. W. Turner and Andrew Wyeth, and the cinematography of the movies by Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers. I believe it's important to find inspiration wherever you can, not just in other photography.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Julie: I definitely see merit in shooting film. Anything that affects the creative process in a positive way has merit to me. Whether it's the color palette of expired slide film, the way the cold brass of an old Leica feels in your hands, or the rush of seeing your print appear from nothing in the developer tray, whatever inspires you to go out and make pictures has merit.
What do you think is the future of film photography?
Julie: The future of film photography looks pretty bright to me. I think companies are realizing just how important film and instant photography is to creative people. With new film stocks coming out, and Polaroid coming back, it looks quite stable at the moment. I'd love to see some companies offer new film cameras to the market. The film cameras that exist right now in good working condition are a finite commodity, and few people can afford a new Leica.
What’s your dream photography project?
Julie: For my dream photography project, I would love to spend a year driving around the country visiting the great National Parks.
Would you like to offer some good words to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?
Julie: Advice for anyone thinking of trying film...you don't need a fancy, expensive camera, don't worry about gear. A solid, dependable Olympus OM, Canon, or Nikon can be had for a $100. Get to know your camera well, it needs to become an extension of your mind. Try to become aware of the light, the best time of the day to go out shooting is the "golden hour", right before to just after dawn and right before to just after dusk in the evening. Avoid high midday sun which can make things look quite garish.
A teacher once told me to look at the photos of photographers you really enjoy, ask yourself what are the key elements that make their photos "work", and try to go out and look for shots yourself based on those elements. Once you understand "what" makes a good photo and "how" to capture it, then you can apply it to your own subject matter.
Spot on, Julie! A fancy or expensive gear isn't necessary when jumping into film photography for the first time. But don't let that stop you. It's your vision and big ideas that matter.
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Well now, if you are a passionate film photographer and would like to be interviewed? I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, "Interview me", and share your story, thoughts, and work related to film photography. I’ll get back to you as soon as I receive your request for an interview.
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